Polam Hall School

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About Polam Hall School

Name Polam Hall School
Website https://www.phs.woodard.co.uk/
Ofsted Inspections
Principal Kate Reid
Address Grange Road, Darlington, DL1 5PA
Phone Number 01325463383
Phase Academy
Type Free schools
Age Range 4-16
Religious Character None
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 787
Local Authority Darlington
Highlights from Latest Inspection

What is it like to attend this school?

Pupils describe coming to the school as being part of a community.

Overall, pupils feel happy and safe. Children in the early years settle quickly into the routines of school. As they progress through school, they receive teaching to guide and nurture them.

The school's philosophy of 'know thyself' permeates the school.

Leaders, staff, trustees and the local academy council share high expectations for every child. They have set up a curriculum which enables pupils to succeed academically.

Leaders continue to take steps to improve pupils' reading knowledge. The school has a strong focus on the development of pupils' character and personal qualities....r/>
Pupils behave well in lessons and at social times.

Their conduct around school is exemplary. There is a calm, positive learning atmosphere around school. The school takes incidents of bullying seriously.

Most pupils and parents believe that staff deal with bullying effectively. Leaders and staff have a determined approach to encouraging high levels of pupil attendance.

The school offers opportunities for an extensive range of clubs.

Pupils are enthusiastic about these. Leaders check pupils' involvement in clubs to ensure that there is something of interest for all pupils. Pupils receive extensive guidance on next steps for careers and education.

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?

Leaders have planned a well-sequenced curriculum. This starts at Reception and builds as pupils progress through the school. Pupils in Year 10 and 11 follow a broad range of GCSE subjects.

Teachers successfully tailor the planned curriculum to meet pupils' needs. They use a range of relevant resources and textbooks to support pupils' learning. Teachers make suitable adaptations to lessons.

Reception children receive both direct adult teaching and opportunities to practise their learning. The school uses assessment effectively to check that pupils gain the required knowledge. Regular revisiting of learning helps pupils to cement their knowledge and understanding.

This helps with their next stage of learning in the subject. Parents are positive about the school's remote learning offer.

Leaders, in this all-through school, have prioritised reading.

They have improved the quality and range of reading materials for pupils. From Reception, children are regularly taught phonics. Teachers demonstrate secure knowledge of how to teach phonics.

However, the teaching of early reading needs further development. Teaching assistants have not received the sufficient training to enhance their expertise. On occasion, staff do not match books to pupils' phonics knowledge carefully.

Some younger pupils do not read regularly enough at home to practise their reading. Leaders have identified that these aspects need to be addressed promptly. They have clear plans to improve this aspect of the curriculum.

Primary-aged pupils read frequently. They can express views about books and authors. Teachers use quality texts to enrich pupils' vocabulary and improve their writing.

In key stage 3, pupils read often. These pupils regularly complete online assessments to check their comprehension.

The school has a clear behaviour management approach.

Pupils understand the approach and staff apply this consistently. Pupils display positive attitudes to learning. They listen to staff and engage well in lessons.

Presentation in books shows that pupils take pride in their work. Movement around school is calm and orderly. Lunchtimes and breaktimes are friendly and sociable times.

Most pupils and parents believe that staff deal with bullying appropriately. A small number of pupils and parents expressed concerns about bullying. Leaders are reviewing how to address these concerns.

This includes considering how to refine current systems of recording bullying.

Improving pupils' attendance is a focus for the school. A range of strategies are in place to encourage and support high attendance.

However, the attendance of some disadvantaged pupils is too low. These pupils are missing vital parts of their education.

The school's 'Concordia Crescimus' curriculum aims to support pupils' personal development.

This is a strength of the school. It helps prepare pupils to contribute to society and develop citizenship qualities. The school meets its statutory obligations regarding relationships, sex and health education.

Understanding about the world of work begins with primary-aged pupils. Secondary-aged pupils receive useful careers information, advice and guidance. The school meets the requirements of the Baker Clause.

The school's curriculum meets the needs of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). These pupils receive good support in lessons for their academic and social needs. Most parents of pupils with SEND believe that their child receives the support that they need.

The leaders for SEND are improving the quality of support plans for pupils with SEND.

The headteacher, well supported by other school leaders and the trust, has brought much improvement to the school. The trustees and local academy council are passionate about improving pupils' outcomes.

They fulfil their statutory roles and responsibilities effectively. Leaders take account of staff workload and well-being. Staff have belief in the leadership and morale is high.

Staff training is well targeted to improve the quality of teaching. Leaders make good use of support from the trust, other schools and external providers. Early career teachers generally receive appropriate development.

However, this term there has been slippage in receiving the required development time. Senior leaders have plans to address this.


The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

The school promptly identifies pupils who may need help. Leaders and staff work in a determined fashion with other agencies and families to secure support. Leaders have set up suitable procedures for the safe recruitment of staff and volunteers.

Allegations of safeguarding concerns about staff follow due process. Leaders have taken account of national research about sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online sexual abuse. Staff receive regular training on safeguarding.

They have recently received training on peer-on-peer abuse. Suitable systems are in place for recording safeguarding incidents. Leaders have sharpened procedures for recording actions taken following incidents of sexual harassment.

What does the school need to do to improve?

(Information for the school and appropriate authority)

• The teaching of phonics and early reading needs further development. Teaching assistants' skills to support pupils with phonics and early reading are variable. Staff do not consistently match the reading books for some younger pupils to pupils' phonics knowledge.

Some pupils do not practise reading regularly at home. This is reducing the impact of the school's efforts to ensure that all pupils are successful readers. Leaders should act promptly to address these shortcomings.

• Leaders have not fully aligned systems for recording incidents of bullying and the actions taken to address these. This makes it difficult for leaders to analyse patterns of bullying and assure themselves of resolution of the issue. Leaders should review how this information could be centralised.

• The attendance of disadvantaged pupils has remained below that of other pupils. This disjointed attendance effects their continuity of education. Leaders should continue with their determined approach to address this issue.

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